Results are in: Philly residents OK new voting system

Results are in: Philly residents OK new voting system

Long before the universe of chads became a major topic of discussion, Philadelphia asked its voters in 1998 if the city needed new voting equipment.

Commissioner Alexander Z. Talmadge Jr. said that although the city has never used a punch card system, like those used in Florida, some of the city's lever voting machines are nearly 50 years old.

The mechanical lever voting machines, invented in 1892, record totals on odometerlike counters. Election workers total the results manually.

The city is replacing all of its lever voting machines with new push button electronic voting machines.

Under a $21 million initiative, the city purchased 3,500 Electronic 1242 voting machines from Danaher Corp. of Washington, D.C., to be used in the city's 1,681 polling precincts.

Talmadge, who has held office for 10 years, said the city's deal with Danaher is the largest single installation of voting machines in the country.

Voters press buttons to record their choice directly onto a cartridge. A blinking red light identifies each unvoted office on the ballot to prevent undervoting. The machine allows only one candidate to be selected for each office. It also lets voters change votes before leaving the booth.

When polls close, officials can print out results directly from the machines. Polling officials collect the cartridges and deliver them to tabulation centers where results are downloaded into a database running under Microsoft Windows.

Easy to reach

The new voting machines are wheelchair accessible.

'The lever machines weigh about 600 pounds and are very difficult to store, whereas the new machines only weigh about 250 pounds and are easy to set up and store,' Talmadge said.

Philadelphia plans to use the voting machines for the first time in its 2001 elections.

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